As the inevitable recovery is on the horizon, there’s never been a more important time to stay connected and engaged with your guests – there’s an audience out there and they’re interested in what you’ve got to say, as long as the tone and content of the message is on cue.
Firstly, Patricia Tothova, Marketing and PR Strategist at Edit PR agency, summarises her thoughts on storytelling and PR:
- "As a hotelier your guests might not be able to stay with you right now, however, they are dreaming about future travel plans. Journalists in the travel and hospitality media are looking to cover interesting and light-hearted stories connected to travel, the heaviness of the media means it’s still an escape for readers. As tough as the industry is, you want to focus on story telling around how your hotel will appeal to future travellers? Are you going to be opening a new layout or check in service which is more contactless? Are you going to be going cashless moving forward?
- If you don’t have a full story to tell, perhaps you can share with the small comments on how you fit into a conversation online? Experts are always needed by journalists so if you have information on how you might be doing things differently or even how you’ve been impacted, this could get you media placements online. Using #jounrnorequest and #prrequest is a great place to pick up on journalist requests that have been sent out for experts every day.
- Using your own data is underestimated too. Your booking system will show you the shift of people moving all their bookings to another month/week in in the year and you can predict and use this information to see when there will be a boom in the travel industry. Use what you already have, it doesn’t always need to cost you a huge chunk in budget.
- Finally, inject fun into the situation. People can’t travel right now, but they love nostalgia and things that make them smile. Do you have a record of customer feedback? Could you use this feedback to create an exciting campaign on the funniest requests and feedback you’ve had from your guests? Journalists are looking for those human led stories now more than ever.”
It’s imperative to keep visible and be clear in your offering. Here’s our top tips for guest communications to keep your brand thriving:
- Keep it positive - let your guests know how you’ve adapted your business to retain staff and keep busy, how you’re helping the local community and how they can still support their local hotel e.g. are you now doing meal deliveries or takeaways, have you taken steps to adapt your hotel to support the NHS or accommodate key workers, are you delivering care packages to the vulnerable, are you running giveaways to NHS heroes?
- Keep it informative – if you’re closed or running a reduced service, do let them know and keep them abreast of developments so they know you’ll be the first to let them know when you’re back up and running. Let them know if you’re using this time to do any makeovers, renovations, business improvements, deep cleaning tasks etc.
- Be forward-thinking – what are you doing to plan for the recovery and anticipate the re-open date? Are you promoting Gift vouchers [buy now, stay later], offering enticing promotional rates for future bookings, discounts on future spa bookings? There will be an end to this, so tap into people’s ‘day-dreaming’ phase for when travel restrictions lift.
- Give tips – your team are experts in their fields and your audience will appreciate any top tips you can share during lockdown e.g. recipes from your gourmet chef that your guests can cook at home, a botanical blog with gardening tips to produce the best seasonal veggies, top wine picks from the hotel sommelier, top treatments for an “at home” facial from your spa for example.
To ensure maximum impact, understand your target audience and segment the customers according to the message you’re sending out, the product your focussing on and the direct benefit they will enjoy. For example, target your corporate audience for business rooms for hire for home working, promote a spa break discount for leisure guests, winter staycations for families, meal deliveries for your local audience and weddings in 2021 for couples, for example.
Work on your database and strategize across different segments for both existing customers and new types and demographics of customers. Markets are going to recover at different rates but local business will recover quicker so in the first instance, focus more on the domestic market than the corporate and international market.
Tone of voice:
In your comms, it is best to lay low on the selling mode and adopt a friendly, honest and ‘helping hand’ approach. We’re all in this together and guests will appreciate being kept informed and communicated to if the message is empathetic, on point and the tone is right. Adopt a consistent approach, holistically across all the channels you’re on.
Review which channels are best to deliver which messages to your audiences. Have a think about previous success you have had on particular channels, which channels reach the audiences you want to target and who will be managing the channels.
Ensure whichever channels you select all work in harmony to push out your message – social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc), email marketing, your website, video and even OTAs are all channels you can use. Also, consider connecting with your local community and join forces with other local services (butchers, florists etc) to pool your resources.
Make sure your team are aware of your comms plan and make it easy to be reached; perhaps look into messenger apps and other ways for customers to respond and engage with you.
Your audience is engaged digitally more than ever before. There has been a surge in internet usage (50-70% increase- Forbes, March 2020), video chat is up by 77% (NYT) and traffic on social media usage on desktop sites is up as much as 27%, reflecting the increase of users at home than on mobile.
Measure and optimise:
Try to ensure that you set achievable goals (conversions/reservations, vouchers sold, web traffic etc) and you’re constantly monitoring them in line with customer expectations and local restrictions.
Constantly review and revise your message and channels – data is everywhere so monitor your plan and be prepared to be flexible and nimble - you might have to adjust the channels / message / promotion over time to ensure its having the desired effect. Also bear in mind the timing of your campaigns - different types of business will return at different rates.
Now is the key time to protect your brand and build on your online presence - don’t be digitally quiet over this period. Put a plan together and get your whole team involved – you never know where that creativity is lurking! Make the most of your team’s expertise and your property - not only will it be useful content for your audience, but you are also showcasing your talent and your hotel.